Busy B

For several months I have been riding a wave of artistic activity.
“Burning the candle”

 Earlier in the year I painted a lot. 

The result is a set of oil paintings which revisit some of the most memorable of scenes from my Beethoven by Bike travels… with more than just a nod to Beethoven. 

There are moments in the last 3 sonatas, especially the very last, (opus 111 ) when the radiance and relief of dawn whispers into being. 

It is this sublime essence of nature and her cycle of the day that I have attempted to portray. 

To accompany these there are sweet memories that for me encapsulate the personality of the countries I passed through. 

Embroidery designs. 

A fresco. (Greece, where else?!)

The view from a friend’s farmhouse. 

As usual, inspiration crashes in rather late in the day. (I’m adept at creating a raft of jobs at the 11th hour!)

So in addition, around each of the “grown up” oils, there will be an orbit of little prints of water colours that I painted while I travelled. 

This gives a context of time and place…. Little gems of character. 

As I reached places of especial significance, phrases from the sonatas would flood my being. An intense wash of gratitude. Fulfillment. A split second of peace. 
The northern-most tip of Denmark. 

Crossing the Danube in December. 

The southern-most tip of Greece. 

So beside each of the “dawn ” paintings, will sit an extract of a score that I played from as I found pianos. 

This to epitomise and distil the sense of the painting, the music, the experience of life in those wonderful moments. 

The swell of appreciation is something that I hope will infuse the Tangerine Tree CafĂ© in Totnes for the month of October. 
Do come along if you are in the area. 
You could even order some gorgeous Christmas cards!

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Schumann wrecked his hands…

I played a little of my favourite Schumann today. Well, I couldn’t really play it, but there were glimpses of its beauty coming through. 

Even playing quietly is very painful if there is just a hint of a stretch. 

His turbulent mental health and anguish gives his music an exquisite poignancy and bathed in the wonderful rich sound of my Steinway, I fell for it this afternoon. 

Just for a few hours I felt so bereft…. I love playing. It has been so vital and nurturing…. my solace and my refuge for so many years.

I find it unimaginably hard to envisage life without being able to rely on it.

What a luxury to be surrounded by beauty of all kinds and how precious that is. 

I hope this is teaching me never to take things for granted. Perhaps in time my thumbs will settle down. 

On a positive note, my beautiful Dulcie has almost made up her mind.  My priority is probably the bow that is easiest to hold. Good job it’s the one we both like the best. 

I shall have to go and stroke her with it before she settles down for the night.  


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A suitable Beau

Dulcie has started dating. We have narrowed it down from 10 eager suitors to 4.

They have nicknames. 

“The Steinway” (handsome, rich, full bodied)

“The Challenge” (sleek, rather unusual, not immediately comfortable, slow to reveal themself)

“Blue velvet” (tasteful, sensitive, even tempered, mildly melancholic)

“Orange velvet”…. Blue’s twin (tasteful, sensitive and of a sunny disposition)

Yes, monogamy is probably wise…. or?

(But hey, she gets to give them each a jolly good try for the next fortnight) 

Who will she choose?

We shall see. 

How wonderful that I get to be a fly on the wall so to speak…..

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Introducing Dulcie

I thought it could be a good time to come out. 
For the last 12 or so years I have been a closet cellist. The kind that starts, finds it rather tricky and after a period of rapid growth, reaches a sticking point….the point at which the cello lives attractively under the piano for a long, guilt-provoking rest.
Those of you who have been keeping up with my Beethoven love affair will have spotted that I have been in difficulty with my thumb joints, which are increasingly arthritic and painful. Whilst I still play and always will, it can no longer be with my previous vigour and I have been compelled to reconsider. 
In the mean time, this year I have been reviving my interest in playing my cello and recently had a flurry of excitement when I tried a different bow …suddenly I sounded amazingly good for a minute! There was a surge of hope. 
And then a lot happened all at once. I had a free day last Tuesday so I drove to Cardiff to try out some bows and, well, came home with a beautiful bow AND Dulcie……and the clear decision to down size from my magnificent Steinway grand piano to an upright and lots more room in which to explore the cello.
It doesn’t hurt my thumbs, you see.
It is portable.
It is sociable.
 I can carry it around and play with other people….a very good thing as I enter my 60th year
After such a fantastic evening with Torbay Symphony Orchestra the other evening, as well as feeling so fulfilled, I came home whacked and sore. I could hardly play for a couple of days.This was not without enormous sadness and alarm. A kind of unwelcome light bulb moment of realisation.

This is where Dulcie steps in. Doom dispelled. From here on, the space that will open up as I release my beautiful piano becomes filled with relief and positive direction. Forwards and up as opposed to backward and down. 
It is also filled with opportunity for the ongoing journey with the Alexander technique. Another profound shift into unfamiliar ground. 
A stop…..the habitual way has shown up as pain.
A very necessary realignment…onto a less trodden, new pathway with whole rafts of discovery.
A new “means whereby” …in other words, a succession of step by step adjustments, each one of which ( selling my piano, leaving the tough stuff to others and keeping gentle piano repertoire for pleasure) orientates me towards continued healthy music making, beauty and fascination.
At another, deeper level, I feel it turns me towards simplifying and gradual downsizing. Lightening the load, so to speak.

Isn’t she beautiful?

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Quiet Drifts and The Alexander Technique

After a sustained period of intense practice or creativity, the close of a chapter (this time, several weeks of Beethoven) brings a reciprocal quality. Becalmed I’d say. 

Over the years it has ranged from an uneasy restlessness, to deep grief, a void filled with anxiety, sublime peace and so on…. And despite knowing it so well, I forget that it will come with as much inevitability as the march of time and that it will take me by surprise again and again. 

This time I am stunningly tired and lacking in any great feeling. 

Not sad, not ecstatic, but somewhere quite still.. grateful I think. 

Yes, truly grateful for having the space to stop and for the comfort of my lovely home. 

The morning after coincided with our monumental vote for change….. Whatever that may mean. 

The wave of public and private concern also has been a huge stimulus, so my system has felt very charged, as though it has been bombarded with double strength coffee. 

The following morning brought me (after an early bike ride to try to ground myself in order to absorb the brexit news) to an imperative 20 minutes of semi- supine….

With the more than usual attention to ground, I then gave what I consider to have been 2 extraordinary, sensitive, free flowing and wonderful lessons….

It was like moving step by step into a new unknown, just working things out together moment to moment. 

As I write, this touches me as deeply as any of the wonderful music I have been privileged to play. 

My arthritic thumbs have loyally held up under duress these last few weeks. I can tell that it is time to stop putting them under that kind of strain. They hurt even at mezzo piano today. 

If you had told me 10 years ago that I might have to ease up on my beloved piano I would have had a melt down. 

How amazing to have the capacity to step back one instrument and to have a passion for the one instrument that I will be taking with me to my grave…. In a changing world, this feels to me to have the potential for the kind of difference I can still make….

I hope I can help the people who come my way to make ever more beautiful “music” by, with and of themselves. 

Thank you all for the supportive and enthusiastic comments.  


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After Beethoven?

Waking early to hear the referendum results…. cannot help feeling we could be at the thin end of a nasty wedge of divisive political posturing…. And the knock on effects of media hype… at the very least, let alone the long term effects. Oh dear. 

On the other hand the dawn, the sky, trees and blackbirds are all carrying on unconditionally

The music on Radio 3 is no less beautiful and Beethoven is timeless. 

Amazing that my increasingly arthritic thumbs held out ….. It was so exhilarating to manage some of the presto scale passages and big chord gestures of the outer movements, as well as the exquisite, lingering beauty of the slow movement. 

Thank you to everyone who came along to listen last night…. The final run through was wonderful and Peter and Helen took some cracking photos… 

Thanks also to conductor Richard Gonski for the opportunity. 

What a special evening. 


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“The Hands of a Woman”

How does Reg Meuross find his way to my Beethoven musings?

Well, if you listen to his fantastic December album, you will find out. 
In this ocean of gender freedom, I really can’t tell if these “hands of a woman” are Beethoven’s (his arms metaphorically around me) or mine ….. His music in my hands. 
What I do know is that the images that are so perfectly shaped by the words of your song, Reg, conjure up the deepest feelings of love and intimacy.. The feelings that I get when I am deeply connected to the music and the spirit of Beethoven that created it all. 
Thanks a bundle.   

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